We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and neighbourly city, and many people work hard together to tackle any issues that might undermine that.
This now includes acting against social isolation and loneliness, which although less talked about can have as great a negative impact on our health as obesity.
So working in close partnership with the city’s NHS, we have been actively commissioning community and voluntary sector organisations to work across the city to support vital social connections. A broad range of community-based groups and one-to-one activities, including lunch clubs, art groups, dance, sport, music and exercise are on offer. There is also a citywide befriending service, where local volunteer befrienders can be matched with lonely older people, to reduce their feelings of loneliness and to help them link back into their communities.
Later this year the council alongside the NHS will bring together the best elements of these programmes and develop the ‘Ageing Well Service’. It will be delivered citywide and have a single point of contact, making it easier for older people, their families and carers, and professionals, to access support and know what is available in their area. It will also provide transport, as lack of transport has been identified by older people as a major barrier to accessing activities, as well as link directly with support for housing issues, financial exclusion and bereavement – all major risk factors for loneliness.
However, loneliness is not only an issue for older people. In a city where residents may live alone, or where they may feel isolated due to cultural, social or financial issues, it is important to remember that loneliness can strike anywhere and at any age. Even active residents may suffer from loneliness. So it is up to every community and each one of us to look out for loneliness in others.
I love living in a city of warmth and of welcome. I would love even more to know that between us we can make every one of us feel included every single day. Thank you to those who already work and volunteer to make that possible.
Cllr Daniel Yates is the Labour leader of Brighton & Hove City Council.